India: I'm Queer And I Couldn't Care Less About Section 377

Meena Karthika, Buzzfeed contributor living in India

The Supreme Court's recent landmark judgment on privacy specifically mentioned freedom of sexual orientation as a fundamental right, triggering renewed hope within the queer community that Section 377 might finally become a historical footnote.

But as a member of the queer community, while I agree that a colonial law based in Victorian morality has no place in modern India, I simply couldn’t care less about Section 377. 

This might be confusing at first if you have the idea that Section 377 affects all queer folk. The exact text of the law doesn’t specify gender, but it does specify penetration. If one is talking about penetrative intercourse, said intercourse necessarily involves a penis. This excludes a large swath of the queer population – either by anatomy or by desire.

The fact is that there are much more pressing issues facing the queer community besides an archaic law that criminalises anal sex, and this is particularly true for women and trans people.


While there is no law specifically targeting lesbians, there are plenty of ways to regulate a woman’s sexuality. Take the Hadiya case for example, where a 25-year-old woman’s freedom was denied, first by her father and then by the state. In her case, the issue was her conversion to Islam and subsequent marriage to a Muslim man, but the exact same legal and moral conventions are frequently used to harass and separate lesbian women from their partners. The charges are almost always related to abduction or habeas corpus writs filed by relatives, rather than any specific law related to a particular sexual act.

Essentially, the problems that queer women face – like the repression of their sexuality and of their autonomy – have their roots in the gender injustices that all women face. What this means is that for queer women, Hadiya is a much bigger issue than 377. Our rights are more connected to feminism than to the queer movement as it stands.

And if the importance accorded to women's issues within queer forums is poor, transgender issues are even more marginalised. This is clearly evidenced by the lack of protest from the wider queer community about the deeply problematic Transgenders Bill, 2016, which seeks to ban begging and sex work and establish screening committees to certify trans people. In short, it threatens to provide legal sanction for the harassment of trans people in India for generations to come if it becomes law.

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